A gentleman relaxes after a bloody good blow-out at The Victorian Restaurant...
Actually this couldn't be further from the truth.
The Victorian Restaurant perches on top of the Prince Albert Pub in Bexleyheath. It is not a Victorian restaurant at all. One look at the website and you can see it is a French restaurant…
· Experience the delights of our extensive french cuisine menu.
· Enjoy first class service in a sumptus (sic) setting.
· Sample fine wines from our large selection to a background of classical music.
As you climb the stairs from the sumptus (sic) antique brass and copper decorated Prince Albert bar, pint in hand, you’d better hold your breath to prepare yourself for something special. It’s been recommended by my stepfather’s son and my sister’s partner’s friend so you can imagine my anticipation is high. It’s two o’clock and it’s time for lunch.
We’re doing this for my mother’s birthday. We usually go to the Harvester – all the salad you can eat for free so you don’t have to order that much for the rest of your meal.
But today it’s a proper 3-course meal in a posh-for-Bexleyheath setting. The waiters and waitresses are very attentive and the menu is reassuringly expensive.
I don’t know whether it’s in my genes (my dad was a tightwad who would never eat out, never in fact have so much as a cup of tea in a café) but I have a limit on how much I spend on a meal. £15 each for food, which I think is plenty. So when I go somewhere expensive I end up going for the cheapest thing on the menu.
I know we’re not talking “expensive” expensive here, not talking Sunday supplement restaurant review sort of figures. We’re talking £6.50 for a starter, £15.95 for a main course, £3.25 for vegetables, £4.50 for dessert.
No, I will not pay thirty quid a head. I will have the set menu, thank you very much. However much it upsets my delicate constitution.
I say quietly to my mum, “On the website, they say this is a French restaurant. Although you wouldn’t have guessed it from the name.”
My mother is used to speaking to the hard of hearing.
“I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING FRENCH ON THIS MENU!”
Oh dear. The waiter looks upset.
“Madam,” he says, “This menu is 95% genuinely French. It is written in such a form so that English customers can understand it. We have a French chef. We are French. I personally have worked with Michel Roux. I have served many celebrities.”
Oh dear. This cuts no ice with me and certainly not with my mother.
“Is liver and bacon French?” she asks.
“Madam, we tried to take liver and bacon off the menu but there was such a demand for it that we had to put it on again. It is not French but it is not our choice. Some of our customers prefer British food. Can I take your order?”
“Can I have the roast beef set lunch, please.”
Refusing to order off the a la carte menu as for £30 a head I’d expect not only a good meal but enough wine to get pissed out of my head too, I order the roast lamb set lunch. After a pleasant lentil soup, thirty pieces of lamb arrive, swimming in an ocean of black gravy, accompanied by a lone unnecessary Yorkshire pudding.
“Mint, please…Thank you.”
“Have some more, sir.”
The vegetables are roast potatoes, bitter yellow slices of courgette, crisp mange tout, and a creamy sickly cauliflower cheese. Basically, the sort of yucky Sunday lunch you get anywhere, but at £14.95 for three courses you can’t go wrong, can you?
The three less money-tight members of our party eat a la carte. They seem to enjoy it but it’s still far too much food for normal appetites. Fat bastards would love it here.
For dessert, I choose the lightest dish, a mango sorbet. It is refreshing but possibly does not complement the remainder of my Spitfire ale. Yes, I’m drinking beer as the wine is eighteen quid a bottle and I’m not spending that on a bottle of wine.
So almost completely sober and stuffed to the gills with too much food, I waddle home to watch the second half of the Everton v West Ham match.
It’s rubbish, we lose, and I'm certain the piece of lamb stuck between my teeth is going to cause an infection.
Bring on Christmas!